A really weird Scottish dream

4913749603_9543f2137b_bI had a really weird dream about Scottish independence last night.

As is usual with dreams, I can remember some details very clearly.

Nicola Sturgeon was being interviewed on Today by James Naughtie from Edinburgh.

She said that the SNP’s proposed Scottish “independence” would involve keeping the pound, controlled by the Bank of England. So the Bank of England would dictate Scottish interest rates and how much money is printed for Scotland – monetary policy.

In this dream, it was obvious that Sturgeon was using a really weird definition of the word “independence”. Indeed, she was making up her own meanings for the word “independence”. That wouldn’t happen in real life.

In my dream she said that the Bank of England ruling Scottish money scam is logical because the “Bank of England” is “independent”. Presumably she meant independent like the International Monetary Fund, rather than “independent” like the actual Bank of England, which is the central bank of the United Kingdom wholly owned by the UK Government’s Treasury Solicitor and with its Governor appointed on the recommendation of the UK Prime Minister.

So the whole dream was completely crazy.

I look forward to finding out about the SNP’s real plans in due course.

Photo by Kenny Barker

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Michael Portillo: life after politics and unfeasibly bright jackets

imageYou have to admire Michael Portillo, especially if you were, like me, still up for him (I bought the book as well).

Since that low point at Enfield in 1997, he has carved out a remarkable television career for himself. Of course, he is permanently ensconced on the sofa of This Week with the former Lady Macduff to his Lord Macduff, Diane Abbott (I am not making this up).

But what I really admire Portillo for…perhaps “admire” is the wrong word – it’s more like jealousy… is for his “Great Railway Journeys” gig.

Well, that’s quite a gig isn’t it? You get to ride around in trains and interview people about fascinating subjects in some of the nicest places in the UK and around the world.

Portillo has a bit of a stentorian delivery, but he certainly communicates a real interest in the places and people he comes across.

But what clothes he wears! Look at the jacket he was wearing in Prague (above)! Do not adjust your set. Imagine if he had worn that for a military înspection when he was Secretary of State for Defence.

Yes, it is actually possible to enjoy a news bulletin

I really enjoyed the 5.30pm news on Radio Four today. “Enjoy” is not a verb normally associated with listening to news bulletins, admittedly. But Ben Maeder read it. Who he? The West Cumbrian reporter for BBC Radio Cumbria. He read the news beautifully, kicking off “Accent week” on PM. Each day they’ll be featuring a newsreader with an accent not normally associated with the PM news.

Presumably they won’t have a Nord Iron accent featured, because they normally do have the Belfast tones of the superb Kathy Clugson.

Oh, and they won’t presumably has a Scots accent featured because they normally do have the Scots tones of marvellous Susan Rae.

Remembering Today in the sixties

Evan Davies on Today this morning reported that a new clock, provided via a listener’s website, has been installed in their studio. It shows the time in words, which is rather novel. This is following some time-telling difficulty displayed by Davis and his co-presenter, Sarah Montague.

This reminded me of Jack de Manio. When I was at primary school, during the mid to late sixties, I used to join my parents in their big bed to listen to Today on Radio Four. In fact, I think I even got in there for Farming Today sometimes. I remember hearing “here is the news and this Alvar Lidell reading it”. Yes, although Alvar Lidell is associated with wartime brodcasts, he was reading the news on Today well into the sixties. I also remember a chirpy cockney called Monty Modlyn, a sort of Danny Baker character who did roving, often homourous, reports. And of course there was the great Jack de Manio.

One of Jack de Manio’s signature habits was to get into a right pickle, sometimes, trying to tell the time. It’s easily done, especially at that time of the morning. If you’re concentrating on interviewing cabinet ministers, your brain tends not to bother itself with telling the time.

The poshification of Newbury

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Walking down Northbrook street, Newbury, I reflected on how the character of the town is now distinctively different from when I first arrived here in 1985.

For me, the arrival of Pret a manger marks the finalisation of the change. Newbury is now “posh”, for the want of a better phrase. I don’t know whether that is a good thing.

Some might say that we just have the normal panopoly of chain outlets. Well, firstly, many towns in the country would give their right arms for some of the chains we have represented here. Secondly, we still have this, very distinctive, view (below) from Newbury bridge in our town centre. It really is qute mindblowing. I never tire of it. And it is rarely without admiring people gazing at it.

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The Day Kennedy died

President John F. KennedyWarning – contains one rather grim statement.

I very much recommend the ITV documentary, “The Day Kennedy died” narrated by Kevin Spacey. It’s available on ITV Player and Catch-up for the next 22 days. I’ve watched several documentaries about the JFK shooting, but this one stood out.

They follow JFK (and his body) from the moment he walks out of the Fort Worth hotel, where he was staying, in the morning, until the early hours of the next morning. They use an extraordinary mixture of footage, taken from various angles, both black & white and colour, both video of live TV and film.

They also interview some remarkable eye-witnesses such as Clint Hill, the bodyguard who jumped on the back of the car. Buell Frazier, who drove Oswald to work that day with his long package of “curtain rails”. Ruth Paine, who was hosting Oswald’s girlfriend. The Newman family, who were standing on the side of the road at the point where Kennedy was shot. One of the nurses in the trauma room where Kennedy was taken after the shooting. Etcetera, etcetera.

The result is a very poignant programme which sheds light on a number of aspects of the day.

I don’t remember where I was when the news came through that JFK had been assasinated. I was only four years old. I would have been in Bude. I can remember where I was when the news came through that Robert Kennedy had been shot.

There were a number of interesting things which I learned about the day from the programme:

When Kennedy flew into Dallas, he actually only flew 30 miles in 13 minutes from Fort Worth. It was hardly worth taking off. But he wanted the big picture of him arriving with Jackie at Dallas airport.

After the shooting, there is the famous image of Jackie Kennedy climbing onto the back of the car. I always thought this was her instinctive reaction to get away from the dead body of her husband, or perhaps a way of summoning help. However, Clint Hill, the bodyguard who was a few feet from Jackie Kennedy, said that she was trying to collect the pieces of her husband which had landed on the back of the car. Grim.

I didn’t realise that Clint Hill hung on to the limousine while it reached speeds of 80 mph going to the hospital. Hairy stuff.

And through numerous photos, film snippets and audio, the programme gives a very vivid picture of the LBJ swearing-in in the plane on the tarmac at the airport, which was extremely grim and emotionally charged. People could be heard and seen sobbing openly.

Lee Harvey Oswald was taken in handcuffs past the waiting press at least 15 times after his arrival at the police station where he was questioned. It seems incredible.

I also notice from the film that there is a white “X” on the road in Dallas where JFK was shot. Tourists regularly risks their lives in the traffic to have their photo taken standing by it. Crazy stuff.

All in all, stirring stuff from ITV.

But after taking a mild interest in all the conspiracy theories, I am left with the overall impression that a lone nutjob did it. Lee Harvey Oswald. Also, we should take into account that Presidential security was at a very early stage then and perhaps Oswald was ahead of the curve. These days he wouldn’t have got into the Book Depository with his “curtain rails” in the first place.

+++BREAKING NEWS+++ Dunkirk rescue abandoned. Many huskies dead

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Climate Change is the defining issue of our age. Previous generations had to deal with the rise of Nazism or communism. This is the issue on which my generation of politicians will be judged. This is our Dunkirk.


– Richard Benyon, Conservative MP for Newbury, November 2006

Cut the green crap

-Reported private view of Prime Minister David Cameron seven years later

Photo: Some rights reserved by Stop Climate Chaos Coalition